Troubled Waters

4303225_origGood news this morning – I have a new short story available at Pulp Metal Magazine.

‘Troubled Waters’ (the plural is deliberate!) is set in Liverpool during the recent riots, with flashbacks to the Toxteth riots in the early 1980s.  I arrived at university in the city less than a year after those riots and I can still remember the burned-out cinema and a feeling of quiet anger on the streets.  I’ve tried to capture some of that atmosphere in the story – let me know if I succeeded.

As well as riots, the story features Simon & Garfunkel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and a magic flute!  Not bad in something dark, poignant and disturbing…

You can find the story here and I hope you enjoy it.

Can’t talk. Writing.

essay_writingDon’t worry, I’m still alive!  But likely to be a little quieter on here than usual, because after a longish break for flu and the holidays, I’ve finally got going on my writing again.

The current work in progress is yet another rewrite on my canal-boat-getaway-crime-book, ‘Embers of Bridges’.  I’ve tried, twice, and failed to get across what I really wanted to say.  Now it’s third time lucky and so far, it’s going much better than before.  So well, in fact, that I’m spending most of my working day scribbling, and have added four or five chapters since Christmas.

It’s good news for the book, less so for keeping the blog (and all my other social media!) up to date.  So if I’m a bit silent, please bear with me.  It’ll be worth it if I get a new book out of it at the end.

New reviews

There’s a couple of really nice mentions for my stuff turned up in the last few days.

Raise the Blade FrontFirst, Graham Wynd has included ‘Raise the Blade’ in his list of favourite books of 2016, with a great write-up that had me glowing.  You can find the list here; do take time to read all the entries because there’s some other great books featured, including titles by Richard Godwin and Renato Bratkovic, and the Dark Minds anthology.

Second, and rather a long time after publication but still a very welcome surprise, there’s this from the British Fantasy Society about the Drag Noir anthology, which featured my story ‘Wheel Man’ amongst many others.  The reviewer has some nice things to say about the story, although there’s a spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it yourself because they do rather give away the plot!


Belated Christmas present

Raise the Blade FrontI’m back from a complete (and much-needed) break over Christmas, following a thoroughly unpleasant bout of flu, with batteries re-charged (bzz) and a lot more energy.  And absolutely delighted to find this gem of a belated Christmas pressie in my inbox today – a super new review of ‘Raise the Blade’ over at Relax and Read Reviews.

You may remember that this excellent review blog was kind enough to publish my guest post – a character spotlight featuring Gillian from ‘Raise the Blade’ – a few months ago.  Now I’m delighted to announce that Joseph has read the book himself, and written an in-depth review about what he liked (and didn’t like, to be entirely fair!) about it.

To say I’m over the moon is quite an understatement.  It’s a very nice discovery to come back to!

Hospice aid

darkmindsThere’s a news item in The Guardian this morning about a charity which has run into difficulties over the amount it’s being charged by a marketing company.

The name of the charity, Hospice Aid UK, is quite similar to the charity the Dark Minds anthology is donating a share of its proceeds to.  However, please rest assured that the two are NOT the same!  I’m delighted to say we’re giving to Hospice UK, which is a completely different organisation.  So you can ignore that Guardian piece and buy the book with a clear conscience!  And yes, that was a hint, by the way.  😉

Dumb… and dumber!

It looks like the BBC were listening to my plea for more weird stories.  Well, maybe not!  But weird stories have suddenly started appearing again, just in time for the festive season.

I use the word weird because neither of these stories is particularly ‘funny’, especially for the people concerned.  But I still found aspects of both fascinating, if only for the dumbness displayed!

First, a dumb criminal, who killed her own sister (with a cooking pot) and went to a lot of trouble to make it look like suicide, only to leave behind parts of the weapon still showing traces of her sister’s blood, and the knife she’d used, post-mortem, to cut her sister’s wrists.

And secondly, a case of alarming inattentiveness seemingly spreading to the police themselves.  When a local ‘Mr Big’ was found dead in his own back garden, Essex police said he’d died of natural causes.  In actual fact, he’d been shot six times.  The excuse the police gave for missing this startling fact was that the victim had previously had keyhole surgery to his chest.  I’m no expert but I’d still think six bullet holes looked pretty different from one small scar – and I’d certainly hope that if anyone ever put six bullets through me, the police might actually notice the fact…

Where have all the funny stories gone?

I used to love sharing the occasional nugget of silliness on this blog.  Those daft stories about dumb criminals, bizarre crimes, or the foibles of human nature, which I found scattered around on the internet and various newspapers, enjoyed reading, and wanted to pass on.

But it’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that, because those light-hearted stories have disappeared.  Nobody is running with them any more.  The BBC used to be a good source, as did local newspapers, social media, and specialist ‘funnies’ like the Huff Post.

Lately, though, the content of all those providers has changed, and become Far More Serious.  To the point where everything is dominated by politics, misery and war.  Fair enough, there are some terrible things happening around the world at the moment, and huge changes to come for both the UK and America, and those things should be reported on.  But bad things have always happened, and in the past there’s always been space for a little light relief.

I’m not sure who’s responsible.  Is it the providers choosing to pick only the weightiest news stories now?  Do they think running with humour at a time of international crisis would be seen as bad taste?  Or is it the news feeds who supply them who’ve stopped providing anything else?  I don’t know.  But as a longtime fan of the daft, the weird and the downright mad, I have one plea this Christmas:

Please can we have our funny stories back?

Where the Heck Wednesday

The sharp eyed amongst you will have spotted that it’s Wednesday, and there’s no Where the Heck.

Don’t worry, all is well in the land of Heckdom.  The series is taking a brief break over the festive period because writers are too busy to write blog posts and readers are too busy to read blog posts, but it will be back with a new crop of authors, books, and locations, early in the new year.

Including, quite possibly, me!

Dark Minds release

eggsecutionerposter1Fancy a shiver at Christmas that, for once, has nothing to do with the weather? Then why not treat yourself to a copy of Dark Minds, the charity anthology that’s already making waves?

The book features a plethora of stories by some very dark minds indeed – authors who specialise in crime, dark fiction and even, dare I say it, horror! All the stories have been specially selected by Betsy Reavley, of Bloodhound Books reknown, for their shiver-inducing qualities.

My offering, ‘My Own Eggsecutioner’, features a man losing control when he tracks down a missing family heirloom. Who’d have thought one small egg could cause so much mayhem? Then again, it is a Faberge…

The book is available from Amazon in Kindle, paperback and audio versions. It’s proving so popular that the paperback has already sold out! But I’m reliably informed that more are being hurried from the printers to fill the gap, so please keep on checking back.

And if you’re on Facebook, then feel free to head over to the FB launch event page this evening, where we’ll be hosting a mad party involving most of the authors, a lot of virtual bubbly, chat, and a chance to win books from some of your favourite authors.  Including, I should warn you, me.  I’ll be popping up around 8.00 pm UK time with a contest involving ‘Raise the Blade’.  Do come along and join in the fun!

(Credit for the scissors/egg picture goes to Bonnie Marie Smith.  You can find more of her stunning artwork here.)

Serial Killers review

Flu at this time of year is a pain, but I’ve made good use of some of the enforced sofa-time by catching up on a few recorded tv programmes, including ‘Serial Killers: The Women Who Write Crime Fiction’.

Part of the long-running ‘Imagine’ strand of cultural programming on BBC, this examined the current popularity of reading and particularly writing crime amongst women.  I say ‘current’, but as the programme itself made clear, many of the best known crime writers of the last hundred years have been women, so this is really nothing new.

The content of the programme was fascinating.  There was lots of detail about forensic science, from the amazing scale models of crime scenes made in the 19th century as teaching aids for detectives right through to modern, state of the art forensic laboratories and new ways of preserving evidence and bodies.  There were also lots of interviews with scientists, criminologists and, of course, the (mostly) female crime writers themselves, including Patricia Cornwell, Val McDermid, Martina Cole, and even (via archive footage) P D James and Ruth Rendell.  All were well spoken, and all shed considerable light on their own particular reasons and methods for writing about crime.

Where ‘Serial Killers’ fell down was in its direction, or lack of it.  It didn’t seem to have a clear-cut message, but wandered from one writer to another, one anecdote to another.  The only underlying question it set itself was why women are so interested in crime fiction, and that’s where I really started to have problems.  Because my own immediate response is, why shouldn’t they be interested?  Is there something about crime that should only appeal to men?  Should women be sensitive, easily shocked little flowers better entertained by recipes and the latest lipstick colours?  Surely the real question is why anyone enjoys crime fiction.  The answer to that, I firmly believe, has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with an interest in the human psyche, a fascination with characters who by definition have removed themselves from the norms of human society, and a love of solving puzzles.

In the hands of the rather old-fashioned male presenter Alan Yentob, the whole thing felt uneasily patronising.  The writers who took part weren’t quite asked ‘what’s a nice girl like you doing writing stuff like this?’ but at times it came painfully close.  The approach missed a wonderful opportunity to examine the real, deep-seated reasons people like crime fiction.  It also short-changed the many excellent male crime writers out there, and reinforced old stereotypes by implying that there’s a difference between male and female writers.  The beauty of crime fiction is that it’s one of the few genres that has mass appeal, that sucks in every gender, race, colour and creed in a shared love of mystery, thrill and detection.  What a shame the programme did so little to celebrate, or even mention, that.

Review of 2016

Dashing in, between coughing fits, to say that my review of the year is live over at Vic Watson’s excellent Elementary V Watson blog today.  She asks the questions, I answer, on a whole range of highs, lows and favourites from the year.  Book, film, song, moment… you name it, it’s on there.  More or less.

So, to find out what my choices were, and why they feature cupcakes, head over to Elementary V Watson right now.

Vic will be featuring a new author every day this month so make sure you keep checking back!